We were in a quandary as to where to have our last meal in Savannah. There were a couple three places that we wanted to try, but we were torn as to what we wanted. We decided to go try a place called Vic's on the River along River Street in the Historic District of Savannah. Vic's is a southern contemporary seafood restaurant, very elegant, very nice. Given that it was a Saturday night and we had no reservations, we knew it could be quite the wait to get in. We were right - it was a two hour wait when we got there about 7 p.m.
Cindy and I waited in the bar area, having a drink trying to figure out if we wanted to eat in the bar, or wait two hours for a table. Cindy finally decided that she wasn't going to eat in the bar "at a nice place like this". We decided to go somewhere else along River Street for dinner. I went up to the bar to pay our tab and I reached into my back pocket and - no wallet. Uh oh. Panic began to take over. Where the hell was my wallet? Cindy had me mentally retrace my steps backwards as to where the wallet may be. I concluded it had to be back in our hotel room, but I wasn't overly certain. That sick, hollow feeling in my gut began to grow as I paid the bar tab with cash and headed out to go back to the hotel.
It was a 20 minute walk back to the hotel, so we just decided to head over to The Hyatt, just down from Vic's, to get a cab to take us back to the Hilton Desoto. Within minutes, we were back in the room and laying on top of the nightstand was my wallet. Relieved that the wallet was safe and sound and not in the clutches of some pickpocket, we decided to go to Plan B for dinner - Elizabeth on 37th.
I called the restaurant to see how long it would be to get us in and the young lady who answered the phone said, "Can you come right now?" I said we could. She said she had immediate seating for two.
Rather than a short walk from the hotel, this was a five minute car ride that took us into the fringes of a not-so-nice section of Savannah. (see map) As I pulled up to Elizabeth on 37th, I noticed a Savannah cop car sitting out in front of the place with a lone patrolman in the driver's seat. Cindy thought there must be someone famous inside having dinner. Just a quick look around the neighborhood as we were driving around trying to find a parking spot told me the cop was there to keep the customers at ease.
Elizabeth on 37th is housed in an early 20th century mansion in the heart of the Victorian District in Savannah. The restaurant was founded in 1981 by Chef Elizabeth Terry and her husband, Michael. Elizabeth on 37th specializes in contemporary American and Southern cuisines, offering eclectic dishes that are made with local ingredients. They have won many awards over the years for their food and wine selection.
In 1996, Elizabeth Terry retired from the business and Kelly Yambor took over as the head chef. Yambor continued Elizabeth Terry's tradition of providing the finest in locally grown produce, meats, and seafood, while using the restaurant's own herb garden for the freshest ingredients possible.
In 1998, two long-time waiters at Elizabeth on 37th - brothers Greg and Gary Butch - bought a portion of the restaurant. They continue to be the owners-operators of the business. In fact, Gary Butch was our waiter for the evening! It's sort of interesting to be waited on in a fancy restaurant by one of the owners - something we had no idea of until after we ate at the place.
After parking the car across the street from Elizabeth on 37th, we walked in and were greeted by the young lady I talked to on the phone. She showed us into a dining room off to the right of the reception area in the restaurant. We sat at a small table for two against the wall. We were slightly under-dressed for the restaurant as a number of men had jackets and ties on. But there were others like me who were wearing shorts and polo shirts, and like Cindy in a pair of capri pants and a nice top.
Gary Butch, a very friendly and personable guy, came over to greet us. He gave us our menus, as well as a wine list. He asked if we wanted anything to drink and Cindy said she wanted to wait for some wine. I asked if they had real lemonade and Bacardi Limon. He said they did, so I ordered that.
In addition to a number of great items on the menu, Elizabeth on 37th also offers nightly specials that change every day given the availability of ingredients. One of the big things the restaurant relies upon is fresh seafood. Shrimp and scallops that are caught earlier in the day are on the plates of patrons that evening. One of the specials that evening was a seafood and rice dish that consisted of grilled shrimp, grouper and scallops served on a bed of Savannah red rice. Cindy was drooling over the description of that dish on the menu.
Before I could even begin to think about what to narrow my choices down to, Gary Butch brought out a small dish for us. He said, "This is the chef's choice appetizer tonight that we're giving you free of charge." It was steamed mussels in a spicy, smoked tomato sauce. It was enough to whet the appetite, fully knowing that we were going to be in for a major taste treat that evening.
One thing that caught my eye on the menu was a peppered beef tenderloin served with a madeira cream sauce. It had asparagus as a side, but I was also looking at the pork loin special they had that evening that featured au gratin potatoes. Since I'd been trying to avoid asparagus after suffering from gout after my second hip replacement, I was going to see if I could get the au gratin potatoes instead.
Suddenly, a young waiter comes to the table carrying a dish consisting of the 9 oz. peppered beef tenderloin filet. It looked good, but it wasn't mine, that's for sure. I sort of looked at him funny and said, "How did you know that's what I was going to order for dinner?" The young waiter was somewhat embarrassed, apologizing profusely as he picked up the plate. I said, "Hey, if that's the worst mistake you make all night, you're doing OK. Besides, you pretty much convinced me that's what I want."
Our waiter, Gary, made it back over to the table and I thought I'd have a little fun with him. I said, "How did you guys know that I wanted the peppered tenderloin tonight?"
He said, "I'm sorry?"
I said, "Yeah, one of your colleagues brought one out to our table and tried to serve it to me. I thought this must be some kind of a restaurant if they can read your mind as to what you want for dinner."
He apologized for the slip-up and I laughed and said, "Aw, like I told the other guy, it's no big deal. But that's what I want for dinner."
Cindy ordered first and got the seafood and rice special. Gary said, "That's an excellent choice. We have it on the menu from time to time and we may put it back on because it has been very popular for our specials."
He turned to me and said, "And how would you like your steak cooked?" I told him medium-rare, maybe a little more rare than medium. I then asked him if I could get the au gratin potatoes and he didn't have any problem with the substitution. He said, "They also come with cooked Vidalia onions and broccoli spears." Sounded great to me. We also got mixed green salads with a homemade sweet watermelon house dressing.
For wine, I ordered up a bottle of the Three Saints Cabernet. I'd read about this wine in Wine Spectator and wanted to give it a try. We weren't disappointed in the least.
After our salads were brought out, it dawned on me that I never did get my Bacardi Limon and lemonade. When Gary brought the bottle of wine out to the table, I said, "You know, you forgot my drink."
Once again, he fell over himself apologizing for the slight. I said, "Hey, once again, that's OK."
He said, "I'll open this bottle of wine and then get your drink at once." I said I'd rather just have the wine now. It really was no big deal.
The decor in Elizabeth on 37th was definitely upscale with a hint of Southern antique to the place. The dining room had big windows and a high ceiling. The lighting was muted and it was very cozy, comfy and romantic in the room. We were digging the whole experience.
Our food came out not long after we finished our salads. The young waiter who had tried to offer me the steak earlier brought it out to me again. I said, "I hope this is mine this time."
He said, "I'm sure it is, sir."
My steak was cooked exactly how I asked - medium-rare, but more rare than medium. It was tender with a load of cracked peppercorns across the top, then topped with the madeira cream sauce. It was absolutely wonderful. Cindy also said her seafood and rice dish was "out of this world." I was offered one of her grilled shrimp and it was very, very good.
We enjoyed a leisurely dinner, savoring the tastes and the surroundings for our last meal in Savannah. Half way through Cindy's meal, she leaned over and said, "Honey, I'm glad you forgot your wallet back in the hotel. We wouldn't have come here if you hadn't forgotten it." She's right. Sometimes it's amazing how things work out.
After dinner, we were offered a number of different types of desserts. But we declined this time, going only for a cup of coffee for Cindy and an espresso for myself. Rarely do I drink espresso or cappuccino, but I wanted one after this great meal.
With a nice tip for Gary Butch, our bill came to slightly over $160 dollars. Not cheap, but the experience and the taste sensation was well worth it. The service was a little choppy, but it wasn't anything that I couldn't overlook. I could even overlook the cop sitting outside the restaurant all evening. While Elizabeth on 37th rivaled The Olde Pink House for both food and ambiance, we were hard pressed to be able to pick which restaurant was better between the two. I guess that's why both restaurants annually tie in the critics voting for the best restaurant in Savannah.